At Kincardine by Duone, Scotland my four times great grandparents John Junkine and Johanna Stewart Graham were married on the 16th Nov 1816. Whilst one of many great grandparents I have traced, this particular marriage took my attention. Why? Because of the place. Duone, Scotland.
8 months prior;
Duone Castle has a commanding presence. Sitting majestically atop a small rise it dominates the skyline. I arrived here late in the afternoon as part of a one-day Outlander tour. Yes, I am a bonafide Outlander tragic. For those fellow Outlander fans, Duone Castle was the filming location for Castle Leoch. If you aren’t an Outlander tragic, this castle was also the filming location for Game of Thrones Winterfell (in the pilot) and used in one of the Monty Python movies.
I digress. Having undertaken the audio tour within the Castle, I found myself standing outside now taking in the surrounds. The wind was chilly and what was left of the sun was setting, the day was coming to a close. My gaze wandered attempting to take it all in. To the right of the Castle, my eyes came upon an opening. The explorer in me wanted to follow the path. The little girl within me was frightened, fearful of being told off for going where she shouldn’t. There was no sign to indicate I could or couldn’t follow the track. I had time. Others were still inside the castle. Like the girls at Hanging Rock, something pulled me towards the opening. Even if I wanted to stay still I couldn’t. My legs had their agenda. They were at the whimsy of a force that I couldn’t see yet could feel. Hesitantly I took the first few steps and started up the small incline. Trees framed the castle to the right. The path went along the wall of the castle. I couldn’t see what was on the other side. It didn’t matter. I was being called by the land. I followed.
My heartbeat increased. My palms were sweaty. I felt excited and scared simultaneously.
My pace quickened. The closer I got to the top I could hear water. Yet I couldn’t see. As I reached the top and walked through the opening, I saw a river to the right. It was barely visible through the trees and was a far drop from where I stood. One false step and I would be tumbling down into the river. This river swept alongside the perimeter of this Castle on a hill. It was moving quickly. It had an energy of its own. In rhythm, the winds swept through the trees. The sounds enticing. The wind through the trees, the sound of the icy cold water currents making music. Music that my heart connected to.
Whilst the path continued further alongside the Castle, I didn’t move. I stood transfixed. Taking it all in. My heart rate increasing, my arms sweaty. I became aware of my emotions. Something was stirring within me, deep out of sight. Like a train coming through the tunnel, these emotions roared towards me. I closed my eyes in an attempt to block the noise and feelings. It was no use. I was at its mercy. A part of me yelled “Move, get out of here,” but I couldn’t. I was engulfed. Tears began trickling down my cheeks. Like waves crashing the shore, emotions of grief, of loss a rage and anger tossed me. Tears continued to fall. What the hell was happening? I had not been here before. Logically this made no sense whatsoever “get a grip” I told myself. It was pointless. I was at its mercy. Whatever drew me towards the small opening wanted me here, now. To feel this, to release. I surrendered to my experience and allowed the tears to flow without trying to work it all out.
As quickly as this began , it stopped. The wind ceased. The trees became still. The river became calmer. Their dance, their music had slowed. Calm surrounded me. My breath returned to its normal pace and air entered my lungs. I became aware of myself within the surroundings once more. I was completely alone. No one or nothing was in sight. My legs were heavy and planted firmly in place. How long had I been here? What just happened? I allowed the questions to move through my mind. Knowing answers would not come. It was pointless. I sat down and felt the coolness of the grass on my legs and buttocks. This took the heat out of my body. As much as I wanted to get up and run away. I knew something had occurred, a transformation, a release or recognition of what was. Something had happened at this place not to me as Libby, but along the time line. There was a recognising beyond the physicalness of self. I had made myself available, I placed myself here and the opening presented. Healing had begun, transformation occurring. What was locked up was now released.
As I carefully made my way back around to the front of the Castle I stood and looked back. Was this a portal? A path to another time? Logically it doesn’t make sense yet the experience was real and profound.
Duone, the place, the River was now firmly entrenched in me. I knew I had to research this place further. What had happened historically? What went on in this castle that could have left such an imprint of grief and loss? Were my ancestors connected to this land? I was curious and the exploration would continue.
Whilst part of the Outlander tour, I didn’t realise that my casual visit to the Castle would result in such a profound experience.
On my return to Australia, I tagged Duone as a place to explore further. One day casually reviewing ancestry tips I was going ‘down the rabbit hole’ with my fourth great grandparents. As you do, you open tips and see what they reveal. Most times they are insignificant. Yet this day, Duone was looking straight back at me through the search records. I squealed with delight when I saw they were married here. I had connected the place and my profound experience with my ancestors. It wasn’t just some random experience. Two of the dots connected.
In regards to the grief I felt, I discovered that the Castle was used as a Jacobite prison and a dower house for widowed Queens. One can only imagine the sense of grief that was imprinted on the land from its previous use.
Doune Castle (pronounced ‘doon’)
- The castle is sited on a wooded bend where the Ardoch Burn flows into the River Teith.
- It lies 8 miles north-west of Stirling, where the Teith flows into the River Forth.
- 14th-century courtyard castle
- Built for the Regent Albany
- Substitutes for the fictional Castle Leoch in Outlander was used in the pilot series of Game of Thrones (Winterfell) and in Monty Python
- Later was a royal residence, dower house for widowed queens and a Jacobite prison